Coyote and the Winter that Never Ends


by Mervyn Burtch and Mark Morris 
click on names for biographies

suitable for
scores and parts
the story
e-mail us about this opera

- productions by schools using school resources
- productions by professional companies or colleges working with schools or community choirs

Adult singers:
4 adult singers, medium voice (suitable for inexperienced singers, but see note below)
Child soloists
(ages 8 to 13):
2 main child solo roles (1 girl, 1 boy or girl)
a number of short solo parts for child soloists (from chorus)
Children's chorus
(ages 7 to 13):
one chorus minimum c.25 children
6 percussion (children)
8 Orff instruments (SA glock, SAB metallophone, SAB xylophone, children)
piano (adult)
recorder group
hand-bells (can be recorded)
flute obbligato (adult or very good child)
just under an hour
full score, piano vocal, and parts available in printed version
scores and parts also available as Finale files which can be e-mailed.
e-mail us for further information on the opera and or scores and parts.
A full set of costumes if also available for hire.
Coyote and the Winter that Never Ends was the first KidsOpera, and remains the one most suitable for schools to do on their own. The instrumentation (which can be varied) allows for recorder groups, hand-bells, and Orff instruments.
Coyote and the Winter that Never Ends was first performed in 1997 in an elementary school in Wetaskiwin, Alberta, Canada, and in a primary school in Cardiff, Wales. In 2000 we revised it, building on the experience we had in the intervening operas. The new version envisaged an adult singing the main animal role of Bear, and included a new aria especially written for the British tenor John Mitchinson, who took the role in the premiere of the new version. Although this role could possibly be taken by a child, it is now more suited to an adult voice.

The revision of Coyote and the Winter that Never Ends was first performed at the Performing Arts Centre, Leduc, Alberta on March 20-24, 2001, starring John Mitchinson, tenor, with adults from Alberta, Wales, and the USA, and children from Wetaskiwin, Leduc, Stettler, and surrounding areas in Alberta, conducted by Janice Tole.



Winter will not end. It keeps snowing. It remains cold. Spring never seems to come.

The animals are gathered together to complain and to see what they can do about it . Bear suggests they call on the sun to shine. Everyone calls out to the sun to shine. Nothing happens. Owl suggests they call on the snow to melt. Nothing happens. Mountain Goat suggests they call on the cold to put on a warm coat. Nothing happens. Deer suggests they call on the wind to send a warm wind. Nothing happens. Owl then suggests that they are not loud enough - why not ask those creatures over there (the audience) to help? The audience join in. Still nothing happens. There is general despair.

Meanwhile, the humans are also suffering - specifically, the family of Ma Murray, a hill-billy family (jeans and straw-hats) with four children, the youngest of whom, Mirelda, is not liked by the others, and is made to do all the work.[The family are played by teachers, except Mirelda]. The firewood has all gone; the furniture has been burnt up; and Mirelda let the fire go out - they have used up all their matches. All they have to eat is cold beans out of a can. The children complain. Ma Murray tells them they must do as they are told, and that they must go and tidy their rooms. Mirelda thinks something must be done about this, and wonders what her father would have said - listen to what the wind has to say. She does so, but all she hears is Coyote's voice calling on the cold wind. Suddenly she realizes she could ask Coyote - he always knows about things. She determines to sneak out and find. As she leaves, Ma Murray sees her going, and thinks Mirelda must be up to something. Ma Murray calls the other children so that they can all follow and see what she is up to.

Mirelda arrives at the gathering of the animals, and suggests to them that consult Coyote. There is general hilarity; Coyote is something of a joker figure. However, a number of them - even Frog - remember the sensible advice that Coyote has given them in the past. In the meantime, Ma Murray and the family creep in behind to try and hear what is going on. Bee notices Ma Murray, and while Mirelda leaves to find Coyote, and Owl keeps talking, she quietly comes up behind the human and stings her with a hair-pin. The Murray family hastily retreat, believing that Mirelda and the animals have a conspiracy to keep winter going.

As the Murray family retreat, the animals see coyote coming. Coyote enters, followed by Mirelda. Bear and the other animals explain the problem, though Coyote seems more interested in finding chocolates in the audience. Owl finally gets exasperated, and demands that Coyote tell them whether he knows how to end winter. Coyote replies that he does - they must find the rainbow. Most of the animals think this is a hopeless answer, but then Coyote explains that if the rainbow is found, there can't be cold (because the sun is shining) and there can't be snow (because rainbows need rain, and if it's raining, it can't be snowing. He then says that the animals have to find each individual colour of the rainbow and put them together. They will find them because they have the scent of spring. The solo animals volunteer.

The humans sneak back at this point. They are now very suspicious, as Coyote tells each solo animal in which direction to go. They themselves split up to try and keep track of each animal.

One by one, each animal finds a long paper streamer of the appropriate colour, rolled up. In some cases, they need help from Coyote and Mirelda. When they have found their streamer, they bring it back to the assembly of animals, where it is hung, so that the rainbow is gradually created. As the last streamer of the rainbow is hung, to cheers from the chorus, the air gets warmer and winter starts to end. Ma Murray appears, with her family, Mirelda with them. She is brandishing a large pair of scissors with which to cut the rainbow. Bear and company stand in the way to stop her, but she threatens to cut off Mirelda's braids if they don't move.

There is a quick consultation among the animals, and they Ma Murray through. She cuts the first of the strands. The sun goes in (lights dim). She cuts the second strand. The wind gets up and everyone starts freezing.

Jeptha, the eldest Murray child, realizes what is happening, and manages to stop Ma Murray. The humans finally understand. But how to repair the rainbow?

All assembled call on Coyote. He calls for Spider, who weaves the two cut strands together. The wind ceases, and the sun shines again.

There is general rejoicing, and the chorus sing of the Spring that is coming.


Click here to read the libretto (opens in new window)

suitable for - forces - duration - scores and parts - comments - introduction - the story - libretto - e-mail us about this opera

start page - main menu - back to opera page